The wreck of the pre-Dreadnought battleship, the HMS Montagu, has been granted protected status by the government on the advice of Historic England – thanks to work carried out by Wessex Archaeology in 2018.
“HMS Montagu and the Montagu Steps are all part of our nation's fascinating naval history. Sites like these must be protected for future generations and together with Historic England and Help for Heroes, we have now done exactly that."
Helen Whately, Heritage Minister
Wessex Archaeology provided the archaeological and historical data and expert advice that Historic England uses to advise DCMS whether to schedule the wreck site. This is a service that our Coastal & Marine archaeologists have been providing to national curators for more than 15 years.
Historic image of HMS Montagu and rope walk for salvage crew. By kind permission of Historic England.
The site will be added to the National Heritage List for England and, as a nationally important archaeological site, will be closely managed.
The HMS Montagu, lost at Shutter Point on Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel in May 1906, was a rare example of the wreck of a type of ship that was rendered obsolete when the revolutionary battleship HMS Dreadnought was launched. It ran onto the rocks of Lundy while taking part in secret radio communication trials when a navigator miscalculated its position in heavy fog. Despite the best efforts of the Navy, it could not be saved and had to be broken up and salvaged where it lay.
The steps that were cut into the granite cliff face as part of the salvage operation, the ‘Montagu Steps’, have also been part of the protection granted by the government.
“Not only is the wreck of HMS Montagu important for what it can tell us about pre-first world war naval shipbuilding, but it is forever linked to the landscape of Lundy island by the distinctive flight of rock-cut steps. Combined, the wreck and the steps provide a rare group of maritime monuments.”
Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England
Image of the whole Help for Heroes dive team. By kind permission of Historic England.
The fieldwork was undertaken by our experts in conjunction with six veteran service men and women as part of Marine Operation Nightingale – a ground-breaking military initiative run with Help for Heroes to use archaeology to support the recovery of wounded, injured and sick military personnel. Wessex Archaeology has worked with Operation Nightingale since 2011, providing professional support for participants on a range of archaeological sites.
“HMS Montagu is a rare example of a pre-Dreadnought battleship, marking a fascinating period of expansion and innovation in the UK’s naval forces and, since its foundering in 1906, has remained an intrinsic part of the Lundy community’s cultural identity. The project was particularly special as it was carried out in conjunction with ex-service men and women through Help for Heroes and Operation Nightingale, providing rehabilitation to those injured in more recent conflicts. We’re very proud to have been part of its success.”
Dan Atkinson, Wessex Archaeology Coastal & Marine Director